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On NFT maximalism
Don't place NFTs on a pedestal over everything non-NFT!
Metaversal is a Bankless newsletter for weekly level-ups on NFTs, virtual worlds, & collectibles
Dear Bankless Nation,
I’m a huge proponent of thoughtful experimentation around NFTs.
But burning a modern literary relic to pump the value of some NFTs? Yeah, that’s an astoundingly bad idea.
What am I getting at? Spice DAO recently purchased a rare copy of the legendary 1970s storyboard for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s infamously unmade Dune adaptation. And last week a person proposed burning the book of illustrations as part of an extremely ill-conceived NFT digitization process.
Let’s be clear, this proposal was put forth by a single individual, it hasn’t gained any traction in Spice DAO, and it won’t ever proceed. Yet the episode is useful, insofar as it’s a reminder that NFT maximalism isn’t something any of us should be striving for. Allow me to explain.
First off, NFT maximalism?
Traditionally in the cryptoeconomy we say “maximalist” to refer to someone who loves a particular crypto project and thinks all other projects in the ecosystem are needless or scams. For example, you might’ve heard the oft repeated phrase “BTC maximalist” before. Bitcoin good, altcoins bad. Grrr!
As for an NFT maximalist, they aren’t tribal on that sort of project-to-project level. Instead, their iconoclasm stems from the NFT vs. non-NFT dichotomy itself. They see NFTs as superior in every way to non-NFTs and thus to them everything that isn’t an NFT and can be one should be one.
What’s Spice DAO?
As the project’s website succinctly explains:
“The famously unpublished manuscript of Frank Herbert and Alejandro Jodorowosky's never completed Dune film went on auction at Christie's for the first time in years.
Featuring thousands of illustrations from legendary artists H.R. Giger, Moebius, and Chris Foss, as well as a complete storyboard for the unrealized epic with contributions by everyone from Pink Floyd to Salvador Dali, the manuscript's contents have long been sought after.
Instead of letting it remain hidden away in private collections, Spice DAO crowdraised funds to complete the purchase, and to collectively explore options to digitally preserve the manuscript, make it accessible to the public for the very first time, and develop creative projects inspired by the vision Jodorowsky set forth.”
The proposal in question
A person representing Spice DAO successfully acquired the legendary manuscript at auction in Nov. 2021. Since then, the community has been figuring out what they can and can’t do with the work and also what they want to do with it going forward.
That said, the DAO has already begun the process of developing an animated series loosely inspired by Jodorowsky’s Dune, among other things.
Yet with the opening of Spice DAO’s forum last week, community members could start putting forth their own specific proposals for what the group might consider doing with the manuscript. One person’s early proposal to mint every page of the book as an NFT with an option to then burn the physical work has generated no shortage of controversy in recent days.
Specifically, the proposer said if the burn was opted for it would “enhance the value of the on-chain NFTs … now the only [ownable copies] of the book.” They added that the event would be an “incredible marketing stunt” and that a video of the event could even be sold as an NFT, too. Sigh.
Like I said before, this boneheaded proposal hasn’t gained any traction and won’t go anywhere. To me, it’s mainly useful in serving as a high-profile example of NFT maximalism.
That is to say, the proposal suggested converting Jodorowsky’s Dune into many NFTs (because NFTs > non-NFTs always is the idea) and then possibly burning the manuscript in service to those NFTs (because if it can be an NFT it should be one! And preferably only an NFT rather than a digi-physical combo, right).
This sort of NFT maximalism can lead to monstrous results, like a willingness in some hearts to destroy legendary works of art in a bid to pump their own bags. We should root such maximalism out lest more people lose touch with the real world.
Indeed, this cultural renaissance we find ourselves in isn’t about replacing everything old and physical with NFTs and squeezing out as much money along the way as we can. Rather it’s about trying to find new ways to connect and create and new, more meaningful ways to live better for ourselves and for those around us.
This doesn’t mean we have to disrespect or eschew what’s come before. It’s hardly some zero-sum affair. In fact, we’re in this incredible position where we’re shaping the present and the future with NFTs, yet our newfound knowledge and resources makes us better poised to be good stewards and protectors of the past too.
Indeed, over the past year I’ve seen an explosion of “regen” work, i.e. Web3 projects helping to fund charity or non-profit efforts. One top of mind example from last year was the Non-Fungible Castle event, during which the House of Lobkowicz auctioned off NFTs and used the proceeds to kick off +30 conservation and restoration efforts around historical artworks. And we will see much more of these kinds of projects going forward!
NFTs are absolutely an incredible new programmable medium deserving of much more exploration by all stripes of people, but these explorations shouldn’t come at the cost of determining little else matters.
Let’s keep engaging with institutions like museums and galleries as they explore synergistic experiments with NFTs. Let’s help them find thoughtful approaches that work for them and their visitors. And where we can let’s use NFTs to support conservation and restoration efforts. It’s culture all the way down, after all. If over time Spice DAO does aptly steward their Dune manuscript, they should be applauded accordingly.
Check out the House of Lobkowicz NFT Series to get ideas for how NFTs can be used to help steward and conserve historical art.
Read my previous write-up NFTs are what we make them if you missed it!
William M. Peaster is a professional writer and creator of Metaversal—a Bankless newsletter focused on the emergence of NFTs in the cryptoeconomy. He’s also recently been contributing content to Bankless, DeFi Pulse, JPG, and beyond!
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